Rana Zoe Mungin, MFA Graduate, Dies from COVID-19 Complications

Rana Zoe Mungin, a recent graduate of the MFA program at UMass Amherst, died on Monday, April 27 of complications associated with COVID-19, after battling the disease for over a month. Mungin, a social studies teacher in Brooklyn, was denied testing for the coronavirus twice, according to ABC News.

The English department has released a statement honoring Mungin. That statement is as follows:

With profound sadness, the English department writes to acknowledge the tragic passing of an important and recent alum of our MFA program, and educator in our Writing Program, Rana Zoe Mungin.

Rana Zoe received her MFA from the University of Massachusetts in 2015.  She was a beloved social studies teacher at Ascend Academy in Brooklyn at the time of her passing.  Although only 30 years old, her work struck a deep chord with a broad swath of readers and scholars. Her candid reflections and critical perspective contributed to national conversations about institutional racism in MFA programs, an ongoing issue that our department and others like it continue to grapple with. She shared her experiences with the goal of making us better and more accountable educators. She, in turn, became a teacher who brought conceptions of justice, equity, and compassion into her classroom.

Rana Zoe's battle with coronavirus unfortunately sheds light on the systems of racial, gendered, and class bias— entrenched power dynamics—that she sought to expose and change in her work.  We have learned through gut-wrenching reports that she was turned away for a coronavirus test three times, and did not receive ambulance service to the hospital, after being assessed as suffering from only a panic attack.  An online appeal for appropriate medical treatment for Rana Zoe received a massive outpouring of support from community members, family, and friends; but the dismissal of her symptoms is a register of the long history of economic and racial barriers to healthcare faced by Black women in this country. 

Rana Zoe was a writer, activist, and educator—a devoted and inspiring teacher. Her powerful stories appeared in several prominent publications, and she was a 2013 winner of the prestigious AWP Intro Journals prize in fiction. She pushed the needle here at UMass on conversations about institutional racism; our programs, faculty, and students owe her a debt of gratitude for having spent time here and shared her knowledge, experience, and perspective. She will be missed by this community and beyond.

Read Rana Zoe's short story "Love, from Mexico" in Quarterly West.

Hear Rana Zoe read her story "Never Get Married" at The Catapult podcast.

Her passing is already garnering national attention regarding racial bias and Covid-19 care and treatment. 

Here are some links to an interview with her in “Wellesley Underground” and a dialogue prominently featuring her in “Beale Street Talks,” which discuss institutional racism in MFA programs here and elsewhere, and recent coverage of her in “Essence”  magazine, “The Grio,” and “The Appeal.”